Howard Schultz On Why He’s Stepping Down As Starbucks CEO

December 2, 2016, 1:15 AM UTC

On Thursday, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO and Chairman, announced he would step down but would remain executive chairman. Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ President and COO, will become the new CEO. Here are the full remarks Schultz made in a call with investors and the media.


Kevin and I are very excited to have this opportunity to provide additional context around this afternoon’s announcement and to answer any questions you might have.

You may recall that it was three years ago that I shared with you what I sensed were the early signs of a seismic shift in consumer behavior – away from bricks-and-mortar and towards mobile and online retailing. Today, that shift has taken firm hold around the world, both disrupting and redefining retailing and significantly reducing the consumer foot-traffic that traditional retailers have relied on for decades.

Despite the shift, Starbucks has been able to consistently outperform the retail industry. We’ve been able to do so because our stores, our offerings and the experiences our partners create make us a destination, and because we invested way ahead of the curve to create world-class mobile, loyalty and digital capabilities that enable us to provide our customers with an increasingly elevated Starbucks Experience to our customers.

Evidence of the correctness, and the success, of the core strategy that is driving our business are the facts that we continue to deliver quarter after quarter of record, industry-leading revenue, comp sales and profit growth, and that each successive new class of Starbucks stores is delivering record-breaking revenues, AUVs, ROI – both in the U.S. and around the world. This trend was repeated most recently in the 2016 fiscal year that just ended.

I also shared with you the view that the U.S. was over-retailed. To survive – let alone succeed – traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers would have to evolve their physical spaces into relevant customer destinations, as Starbucks stores have been for the last 40 years through the environments we create and the beverages and foods we serve – and create premiumized, experiential consumer venues.

That view is what inspired development of the Starbucks Roastery and Reserve brand.

Since its opening two years ago, our Seattle Roastery has become widely recognized as the world’s most immersive, coffee-forward retail experience. Executives from premier global retailers like Apple, Nike and Zara have shared with me their view that the Roastery delivers the best retail experience – in or out of coffee – that they have ever encountered. Our Roastery is attracting customers and visitors to Seattle alike, and casting a bright halo across the entire Starbucks global brand and ecosystem.

With the Roastery, we introduced into the coffee category a previously unattained level of premiumization. Its success is unparalled, last year achieving a comp sales increase of 24% and delivering a ticket that is four times the ticket of a typical Starbucks store. The Roastery has become a learning laboratory for breakthrough innovation and experiential design and a beacon for the next wave of Starbucks global growth and evolution.

Going forward, we will open at least 20 Roasteries around the world, six by the end of calendar 2019 alone. At the same time, elements of the Roastery are forming the basis of the 1,000 or more Starbucks Reserve stores we will be opening around the world in the years ahead.

Starbucks Reserve is a new, premium retail coffee format that will showcase the newest coffee-brewing methods and offer customers the finest assortment of exclusive, micro-lot coffees sourced from around the world in an all sensory experience emblematic of our Seattle Roastery, paired with artisanal food offerings developed with our partners from Italian artisanal baker Princi. We expect Starbucks Reserve stores to deliver twice the unit economics of the typical Starbucks store.

We will also add Reserve bars into thousands of existing Starbucks stores over time. Let me explain what a Reserve bar is and what that means to the company.

The Roastery has taught us and demonstrated that we can create customized, handcrafted beverages for our customers, using cutting-edge brewing methods and profitably deliver them at scale. Over time, you will see us introduce this unique capability into thousands of existing Starbucks stores around the world, further elevating the Starbucks Experience we deliver to our customers and further extending the halo that the Roastery casts across the entire Starbucks brand.

Like our current stores – and the new classes of Starbucks stores we will be opening globally in the years to come – Roasteries, Reserve Stores and Reserve bars that will be customer destination venues. They will broaden, deepen and elevate our customer experience, and represent an unprecedented new global growth opportunity for the company. I am personally as passionate about developing the Reserve brand, and opening more Roasteries, as I was about opening our first espresso bar more than 30 years ago in Seattle.

As I shift my focus to this next wave of retail innovation, I am sincerely pleased that Kevin Johnson – our current president, coo, a seven-year board member, and my partner in running every facet of Starbucks business day-to-day over the last two years – will be assuming the duties of Starbucks chief executive officer in April 2017. This move ideally positions Starbucks to continue to profitably grow our core business around the world.

Let me tell you why I personally asked Kevin to take on the ceo role, and why the Board and I believe that he is the ideal ceo for Starbucks at this moment in our journey.

Many of you are familiar with the breadth of global management experience and the deep consumer and technology expertise that Kevin brought to Starbucks when he joined our board in 2009.

Since then, Kevin has been a wise and supportive resource for me, personally, both during and following our company’s transformation. For years he has provided invaluable insights into how we scale the company around the world, and how to best integrate industry leading customer facing technology into our customer experience and operations.

I’ll simply note that Kevin has been immersed with us on management and operations issues and opportunities well before he took over the coo role two years ago. And that the two fiscal years following his engagement have been the best years in the history of Starbucks Coffee Company, with the most recent year producing record-shattering financial results and operating metrics across the board. Let me just say he deserves a tremendous amount of credit.

Along the way, Kevin and I have formed a trusting partnership, and Kevin’s collaborative leadership style has won the loyalty and respect of our people while driving the team to deliver record performance.

Kevin brings to the ceo role an unparalleled understanding of the market dynamics and strategic choices that have driven Starbucks to become one of the world’s most recognized and respected companies and brand.

We share a passion for customer-focused innovation and a commitment to preserving Starbucks heritage. Our complementary backgrounds – my entrepreneurial journey building Starbucks and Kevin’s decades spent scaling global businesses – will continue to help Starbucks navigate this new period of worldwide growth and innovation.

Kevin is, in every respect, a true servant leader and a person whose courage, compassion and empathy model the very characteristics we want for all partners and all our leaders. His approach to solving complex problems and his ability to bring out the best in people will continue to make all of us at Starbucks better in the same context that he has made me better.

I will remain Starbucks executive chairman, focusing full-time on the incredible growth opportunities we have in expanding Roasteries and building out our portfolio of Reserve stores and on Starbucks social impact agenda which will be a significant part of the focus going forward.

The truth is, in all my years at Starbucks I have never been more energized or exhilarated about the opportunities that lie ahead.

Please join me in congratulating Kevin. These are exciting times for all of us.


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